Sometimes it is good to read an article that serves as a reminder of what can happen when a company fails to do things the “right way.” In fact, many plaintiff’s lawyers attempt to paint trucking companies like “bad eggs,” even if they set out to do everything correctly. This is certainly a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when poor decisions are made.
In May 2015, Lauro Lozano, Jr. drove trucks for Jorge and Silvia Marin and the trucking companies that the Marins controlled. On completion of a delivery in San Antonio, Lozano returned to the truck yard in McAllen, Texas. Given the amount of driving, Lozano was required to take a minimum of 34 hours of rest pursuant to federal regulations. After being home for a couple of hours, Lozano received a phone call from Jorge Marin saying he needed another load delivered. Lozano indicated he had only just returned home from a previous job, needed more rest, and could not safely drive another trip at that time.
Marin told Lozano to alter his logbook to make it look as if he had taken the full 34-hour rest break required by law. He then instructed Lozano to go to the yard in the morning to run the load to Maryland. According to his lawsuit, Lozano was worried he would lose his job if he failed to comply. Therefore, he returned to the yard at 5:00 A.M. the next morning, grabbed his truck, and headed east for Maryland as instructed.
After a couple of days, as he was passing through Alabama, Lozano fell asleep at the wheel. He rear-ended another tractor-trailer, and the accident left Lozano with severe injuries. He sued the three trucking companies controlled by the Marins for negligence.
At trial, Lozano was able to put forth evidence that the Marins, on multiple occasions, sent drivers on cross-country trips when they were fatigued and overworked. Multiple company drivers testified that the Marins required them to drive in excess of the hours of service regulations. Additionally, multiple drivers testified that they were asked to falsify logbooks to cover up the hours of service violations.
As one can imagine, this course of conduct did not play well with the jury. First, Lozano was awarded more than $5 million in compensatory damages for his injuries and pain and suffering. Additionally, each trucking company was hit with $25 million in punitive damages for the conduct of the Marins. Therefore, Lozano was awarded $80 million in damages for an accident in which he fell asleep and rear-ended another truck, and that was all because his bosses asked him to drive when he should not have been, compounded by falsifying records.
If you have any questions about federal rules and regulations regarding your drivers, or any other questions pertaining to transportation law, please contact Steve Setliff (firstname.lastname@example.org) at (804) 377-1261.